A lot has changed for the coaching staff of Blaine High School athletics, especially this fall. New coaches Andy Olson (football) and Roberto Aguilera (cross country) hope to elevate and enliven their respective programs, while Borderite staples like Jacquie Tesarik (volleyball) and Gio Quesada-Ruiz (girls soccer) hope to raise their already high standards. Hear from all four coaches in our Blaine Borderite Fall 2023 Sports Preview.
Head coach Andy Olson is a familiar face to those who know Whatcom County football. In 2000, he was a ball boy for Lynden High School, played and graduated there in 2008, then came back as an assistant coach in 2013.
When he started teaching middle school English in the Burlington-Edison school district, he took another assistant coaching job at the high school before taking over as head coach in 2019.
During his three seasons at Burlington-Edison, he brought the school from basement-dwellers to a respectable program boasting over 90 student-athletes on the roster.
Now, he’s back home in Whatcom County, coaching for the Blaine Borderites with a gaggle of former Burlington-Edison assistant coaches in tow.
Troy Anderson will take the defensive coordinator role, Hunter Anderson will run offense, Trey Lopez is in charge of running backs and strength/conditioning, and Mike O’Dwyer is special teams coach. All four came along with Olson this past offseason.
“They were like, ‘This is fun, let’s go do this again in north Whatcom County and see if we can compete,’” Olson said. “I was humbled. I didn’t expect that. I think it speaks to our process and how what we value isn’t necessarily on the scoreboard.”
Olson said that as an educator, football is just another way to craft young kids into outstanding citizens. But the first way to do that is to get people signed up.
“What I really care about is having more kids playing football,” Olson said. “Kids loving the game, learning life lessons through it and becoming better men as a result of playing in our program.”
The program still has a long road ahead if they want to seriously compete in a region that is home to powerhouse programs like Lynden Christian Academy and Nooksack Valley, both coming off deep state playoff runs.
Borderite football commences against Port Angeles High School at the Blaine stadium at 7 p.m. Friday, September 1.
The Borderites are coming off an impressive 2022-23 season that saw Quesada-Ruiz awarded the Northwest Conference (NWC) 1A co-coach of the year, goalie Larissa Pluschakov win NWC Defensive MVP, and three departed seniors garner first team All-NWC honors. They finished with a 7-8-2 overall record, and a 5-2-2 record against conference opponents.
With so many impact players graduated, Quesada-Ruiz said his focus at the beginning of the season is getting new players enmeshed with the team.
“It’s a lot of new faces, and sometimes, for the new ones, it’s hard to engage with the old ones,” Quesada-Ruiz said. “That’s going to be one of the keys for success. Finding out how the team can engage quickly.”
He makes a point for student-athletes to follow teams that use the Borderite’s signature 4-4-2 formation. English Premiere League stalwarts Liverpool use the same system, and the Australian team that placed fourth in the 2023 Women’s World Cup ran the formation to near perfection.
“Believe it or not, you will learn,” Quesada-Ruiz said on studying the game. “Really, go and see on TV. Watch what she’s doing, and do something that’s new for you.”
The season kicks off at Borderite Stadium 6 p.m. Monday, September 11 against Sedro-Wooley.
Coming off a disappointing 4-13 record last season, head coach Jacquie Tesarik is focused not on the win column, but on reigniting the fire that creates good teams.
“Our goals this year are to compete more, play together as a team and really communicate with each other,” Tesarik said. “We work hard in practice so that can translate over to our matches. [We’re] trying not to look to the past and just look forward and make our own goals for this year.”
Incoming senior Teya Zaddack recently committed to play volleyball at Western Washington University, a perennial powerhouse in NCAA’s Division II. Having an example for the other players to look up to, someone reaching success at the next level, warrants boasting, Tesarik said.
“You feel proud of being someone who’s hopefully had an influence on her while she’s been here,” Tesarik said. “Teya certainly has had a passion, and it takes special commitment, but it’s that sense of pride for knowing her and seeing her get rewarded for her hard work.”
Blaine volleyball hopes to turn the ship around starting with a conference matchup on the road against Anacortes at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 6. The first home game of the season is 7 p.m. Monday, September 11 against Sehome High School.
Yet another brand new head coach will be pulling the reins this fall in Blaine. This time, avid runner and first-time coach Roberto Aguilera will helm Borderite cross country. A competitive runner for the past decade, Aguilera holds multiple long-distance track records from his time at Ferndale High School.
But now, it’s Aguilera’s turn to coach, and he hopes that the harsh, grueling realities of cross country will not only help his team to learn to run together, but also to grow together.
“The team’s good. Of course – they’re high schoolers – I’ve been in their shoes before,” Aguilera admits. “But [this season] has the potential to help them grow as athletes and students, and being a mentor and coach to them will help them develop themselves to be a better person, that’s what I’m here for.”
Cross country’s first meet of the season falls on Saturday, September 9 at the Gear Up Northwest XC Preview, hosted by Sehome.
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